Minnesota health officials on Friday, April 10, are set to detail the modeling they've used to make decisions around social and travel restrictions, including a one-month extension of a stay at home order, aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus in Minnesota.
Department of Health and University of Minnesota School of Public Health scientists are set to outline the model that projects how quickly COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, could spread in the state under different constraints and how many deaths and hospitalizations are likely to occur in each scenario.
The effort to highlight and explain the projections come after Gov. Tim Walz and top health advisors have faced scrutiny from Minnesotans frustrated about the shuttering of businesses, restaurants, bars, schools and places of amusement projected to run through May 4.
One of the skeptics, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, on Thursday objected to the state's projections that between 3,000 and 5,000 Minnesotans could require hospitalization at the disease's peak in the state and said Walz's move to extend the stay at home order was a unilateral decision.
The death toll from the illness ticked up by 11 on Thursday to 50 in total and 88 more Minnesotans tested positive for COVID-19, a total of 1,242.
Gov. Doug Burgum on Thursday confirmed a sixth North Dakotan has died from COVID-19, the illness caused by coronavirus.
Earlier in the day, the North Dakota Department of Health announced that a Stark County man in his 60s with underlying health issues succumbed to the illness after contracting it through community spread, meaning the source of the virus remains unknown. The man was the first person reported to have died from the illness in North Dakota who is under 70 years old.
Stark County, which encompasses Dickinson, has the third most cases of any county in the state at 29.
The department also announced 18 new cases of COVID-19 from all over the state.
The total positive tests for the virus in North Dakota is up to 269, however the department lists 101 people as having recovered from the illness.
Burgum has frequently said he would only order more rigid restrictions to keep residents confined to their homes "when and if it makes sense." He expanded on that idea Thursday, saying the main factor he considers is hospital capacity.
A South Dakota meatpacking plant stricken by coronavirus will close for three days for cleaning and retool to guard against transmission of the virus among workers, its owner said Thursday.
At least 80 workers at the Smithfield Foods plant in Sioux Falls have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, according to state officials, but they said they expected that number to climb as the investigation into the hotspot continues. The plant employs 3,700.
Smithfield said most of the plant will be closed Saturday and be completely shuttered Sunday and Monday.
The cases at the meat packing plant didn't appear to have an immediate impact across the border in Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walz said Thursday, but state officials are on heightened alert following news of the outbreak.
"We haven’t seen it yet but I’m very worried," Walz told reporters in St. Paul.
The state reported a total of 447 confirmed coronavirus cases on Thursday, rising 54 over the previous day. The bulk of those cases, 46 in all, were in Minnehaha County, where Sioux Falls is located.
Around the region
Dozens of Wisconsin State Parks and recreation areas were ordered to be closed on Friday by Gov. Tony Evers due to crowds. None of the parks in Douglas County were affected. Several parks have had record attendance recently, including an estimated 16,457 visitors to High Cliff State Park on Lake Winnebago the weekend of April 4-5.
Unemployment numbers in North Dakota for the week ending April 4 continued their unprecedented climb with 16,167 claims filed last week, according to figures released Thursday by Job Service North Dakota.
Approximately 18,700 people applied for unemployment insurance in Minnesota on Wednesday, bringing the total number of jobless claims in the state to 385,318.
In South Dakota, jobless claims totaled 7,916 for the week ending April 4, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, continuing a record-setting pace.
North Dakota officials and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have identified the Fargodome and the Fieldhouse at the University of Mary in Bismarck as potential sites for field hospitals.
Nationally, jobless claims submitted last week totaled more than 6.6 million. That means more than 16 million Americans have lost their jobs since mid-March, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics.
Residents of the Dakotas and Minnesota on Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance plans will not have to pay out-of-pocket charges for COVID-19 testing or treatment. The change was announced in early April.
With a growing number of COVID-19 tests coming back negative, a team of Mayo Clinic doctors cautioned against using test results as an excuse to ease up on social distancing. A false-negative test could cause people infected with COVID-19 but not showing symptoms to return to work and spread the disease, according to an article published Thursday in the peer-reviewed journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
South Dakotans should consider installing a smartphone app to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Kristi Noem said Thursday.
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